Soft-Bodied Sea Creatures Contain the Most Microplastics, Study Says

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. mollusk / ˈmɒl əsk / (n) – any animal, such as a scallop or oyster, that has a soft body without a spine and usually lives in a shell

    If you want fresh mollusks, you should buy them at the market.

  2. agent / ˈeɪ dʒənt / (n) – a substance that brings about a particular effect or result

    Yeast acts as a raising agent in bread.

  3. ingest / ɪnˈdʒɛst / (v) – to take something, usually food, into one’s body

    Emergency services should be called if someone accidentally ingests household cleaners.

  4. build up / bɪld ʌp / (phrasal) – to accumulate or increase over time

    I was surprised how much dust built up on the table in just a few weeks.

  5. echinoderm / ɪˈkaɪ nəˌdɜrm / (n) – a marine animal that usually has spines, like starfish, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers

    The scientist made significant contributions in the field of biology with his research on echinoderms and other marine animals.


Read the text below.

A new study has found that mollusks contain the highest levels of microplastic contamination out of all types of seafood.

Microplastics are tiny plastic particles produced when bigger pieces of plastic break down. They are present in a large variety of products, such as cosmetics and cleaning agents. Microplastics enter the environment through wastewater and are often ingested by animals, who mistake them for food. Since plastic cannot be digested, it builds up in the bodies of sea creatures. When humans eat seafood, they also eat the microplastics that were ingested by the animals.

To identify the amount of microplastics present in seafood, researchers analyzed 50 studies on the microplastic levels in mollusks, crustaceans, fish, and echinoderms.

Results showed that mollusks are the most contaminated sea creature in the study, with a maximum of 10.5 microplastics per gram. In contrast, crustaceans were found to contain 8.6 microplastics per gram at most, while fish were found to contain 2.9 microplastics per gram or less.

Findings also revealed that mollusks harvested off the coasts of Asia tended to have the highest level of microplastic contamination. This suggests that these areas are heavily polluted with plastic.

The researchers added that there may be a difference in microplastic levels between farmed and wild seafood. Mollusks bought from a supermarket might contain fewer microplastics because they may undergo treatment that removed them compared to ones gathered directly from the sea.

According to the researchers, the study can help experts understand the full impact of human plastic consumption. They added that methods of measuring microplastic contamination should be standardized to lessen plastic pollution and to further understand its effects.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• After reading the article, will you change your seafood eating habits? Why or why not?
• Do you think all seafood should undergo thorough treatment to remove microplastics in them? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• Who do you think is responsible for the increase in plastic pollution (e.g. individual people, large corporations)? Why?
• Do you think plastic pollution will improve or get worse in the future? Why or why not?